“Code is law”. With this dictum, the internet jurist Lawrence Lessig already in 1999 got to the point of an essential insight: the behaviour of people today, apart from markets, laws, and social conventions is also powerfully regulated by software, “code”. Like walls in a physical room code determines who can access what on the internet, who is excluded from what. And the influence of code reaches increasingly beyond the net: In the light of digitalisation more and more aspects of our everyday life are outsourced to netbased software – from the smallest purchase to the biggest stock exchange trading, from the letter to the editor to the petition. At the same time and by using the key words “choice architecture” and “nudging”, politicians discuss the closely related question how to steer the behaviour of citizens in a socially desirable direction through small changes in the design of forms and processes.
Hence it is not surprising that the influence of code on human behaviour has become a subject of many disciplines in recent years: in academic and technology research as “policy of artefacts”, in human-computer-interaction as “persuasive technology”, in behavioural economics as “incentive-centered design”, in technology philosophy as “value-sensitive design”, in game studies as “gamification”, in product design as “design with intent”, in geography as “code/space”, to name only a few examples. The discourse lacks however an interconnection and synopsis of the state of research in the different fields.
To this end the Hans Bredow Institute in cooperation with the HIIG initiates an international interdisciplinary dialogue about the question how software regulates behaviour in online spaces. On a two-day workshop in January 2013, selected researchers form the various disciplines will collect approaches and findings, work out forms and consequences of behaviour regulation through code, and chart open research questions. This should be the kick-off to a systematised publication and an active research network.